Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR’s top Cup Series, has been outspoken in standing up to the racism that’s been intertwined with the sport for far too long. But after he raced in a car with a Black Lives Matter livery and successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag, one of Wallace’s crew members reportedly found a noose inside their garage at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. NASCAR has launched an investigation into the incident, federal authorities are now involved and in the meantime, Wallace’s Cup Series compatriots are showing their support for him.
UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR announced that an FBI investigation concluded that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime and that the noose in question was actually a pull rope for the garage stall that had been in place since the fall of 2019. “We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing,” the statement said.
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In a powerful statement before Monday’s rain-delayed race at Talladega, the entire Cup Series field of 39 other drivers and their crews marched down pit road and pushed Wallace in his No. 43 car to the front of the line. The gesture reportedly moved Wallace to tears as he insisted in a statement on Monday that “This will not break me.”
In addition the the majority of Cup Series drivers, NASCAR’s front-office has been vocal of its support of Wallace throughout the ordeal. From his Black Lives Matter-liveried Chevy Camaro at Martinsville to his public stance on banning the Confederate flag from NASCAR, he’s faced a tremendous amount of backlash from the sport’s fanbase.
It’s been a turbulent year for NASCAR from a social perspective, starting with Kyle Larson’s use of the N-word in an online video racing stream in April. Tensions compounded further once Wallace took a stand to support those protesting the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Expectations were low for this weekend’s action at the Talladega track as it sits in Alabama. It marked the first race since NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from any of its events and properties, though fans made their anguish known. Many spoke out against the sanctioning body, and there was even a plane flying the flag overhead with “Defund NASCAR” written on a banner behind.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps has promised the individual responsible for the noose would be swiftly expelled from the sport—the virus-related restrictions mean only NASCAR and track employees had access to Wallace’s garage stall—and the involvement of both the local sheriff’s office and the FBI in the investigation signals the perpetrator will face serious criminal charges when they’re caught.